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May 2015

Pope Francis & Rabbi Skorka: Forging a Deeper Relationship

There may come a moment in long-standing interfaith friendships when individuals deeply devoted to their religious traditions notice how the differences that separate them from their dialogue partner begin to recede or even dissolve. While recognizing that philosophical and religious differences still exist, they begin to experience a form of familiarity and kinship that supersedes religion, dogma, tradition, and history.

Looking Back, Looking Forward

This is the third “Best of TIO” issue we’ve published since launching in September 2011, and it is a treasure. These are tumultuous times for religion and for humankind, keeping us bombarded with terrible stories, week after week. But the articles in this issue are proof positive that good things can happen in bad times, that heroic behavior is championing a more peaceful, equitable world, and that our capacity to network and collaborate for the good is growing everyday.

Visiting India, the Motherland

I first became intoxicated by India as a college student in the 1960s, through the movies of Satyajit Ray, the music of Ravi Shankar and, most of all, the revelations of the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. My first exposure to those sacred texts came second-hand, through the work of interpreters like Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley and the fiction of Herman Hesse, Somerset Maugham, and J.D. Salinger. The Beatles put me over the top when they took up Transcendental Meditation and made their landmark pilgrimage to Rishikesh. The total effect of those cross-cultural hinges was to turn this existentialist/atheist/social activist into a dedicated spiritual seeker. I’ve been immersed in yogic practices and Hindu texts ever since.

Interfaith Festival Deluged by the Spirit, Rain, and Hail

The Universal Multicultural Dialogue – an international interfaith festival – was launched in 2012 in Guadalajara, Mexico. As TIO reported last month, UMD II will be held this coming May 6-9. Elías González Gómez joined the Carpe Diem Foundation sponsoring the first UMD as soon as he heard about it. He has written an extended article about the experience. Excerpted below is his story of the 2012 festival’s opening day.

Bronzes – Women as Agents of the Sacred

Every culture has found ways to express its sense of the sacred or transcendent in myth/story and representationally in graphic form. This series of sculptures emerged from my interest in the role of women as centers through which the sacred is expressed or through which the sacred interacts with human communities.

Interfaith Collaboration – Walking the Talk

Principle 11 of the United Religions Initiative (URI) Charter says that “we seek and offer cooperation with other interfaith efforts.” The diverse community that met during URI’s formation in the late nineties envisioned that URI would be a different kind of organization in many respects.

Colaboration, Cooperation, Coopetition

In 2014 the Compassion Games grew 120 percent to more than 158 teams. They are organically organized into “Leagues” according to the constituencies they represent. Sixteen sectors have been identified, including Interfaith, Education, Health Care, Families, Women/Girls, Youth/Elderly, Cities, and Arts/Culture.  

Getting to Know You While We’re in Turkey

What happens when a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jew walk down the street together? The beginning of a bad joke, right? Wrong. The Muslim was Plemon el-Amin, imam of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. The Christian was James Lampkin, senior pastor of Atlanta’s Northside Drive Baptist Church. And the Jew was Sherry Frank, executive director of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Jewish Committee. The street was Yerebatan Caddesi in the old city of Istanbul. The year was 2002. This walk marked the beginning of a remarkable experiment in interfaith community-building by a city nearly 6,000 miles away.

A Prayer in the Beginning

Last week I was in a Moroccan restaurant in Seattle and had a unique experience: The very nice Palestinian man who ran the restaurant started speaking to me in his Shammi (Eastern) Arabic, and I responded in my good Moroccan Darija over mint tea and cookies. He was shocked to hear a non-Arab speak Arabic in a proper dialect, and when I told him I was Russian he said “No, no it can’t be! Arab blood runs in your veins!”

Technology: A Re-introduction

We’ve become the tools of our tools and the fault – and the solution – lie not in our tools, but in ourselves.

For all the stunning achievements of science and technology in the last 400 years, there has been a blind spot at the center of both enterprises: the absence of an overarching vision that ties everything together, or the recognition that, in fact, everything is indeed connected.

The sheer amount of information now makes it impossible for any single person to grasp the whole of knowledge, as Leonardo da Vinci once could. As a result, scientists and technologists become buried in silos of information with little or no vision of what is upstream or downstream of their work.

In a World of Violent Disorder, Carrying the Agony in Hope

Written for the 639 United Religion Initiative Cooperation Circles in 84 countries, Bill Swing’s words in these difficult times resonate for interfaith activists everywhere.